Michigan Regulators Issue Promising Order for Distribution Grid Planning

On Sept. 8, the Michigan Public Service Commission (MPSC), in an order, gave a stark assessment of the state of Michigan’s grid that likely rings true with the tens of thousands of ratepayers that have lost power over the last few weeks: “Put bluntly, Michigan’s distribution reliability is inadequate, and current plans for improvements are insufficient.”

The order is the latest action in the MPSC’s proceeding where it is requesting the utilities lay out their plans for strengthening the grid, reducing the high level of power outages in the state and moving toward a more metric-based, sophisticated approach to distribution grid planning (for more background see previous posts from CUB here and here).

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MPSC Hears From Frustrated DTE Customers in Detroit Hearing

The Michigan Public Service Commission’s (MPSC) Aug. 22 hearing in Detroit was a rare opportunity for DTE residents to express their frustration with paying high rates for electric service that is only getting more and more unreliable in the face of worsening severe weather.

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New Midwestern Transmission Line Buildout Could Save Billions in Electricity Costs

It is often talked about how renewable energy, chiefly wind and solar, has increasingly become one of the cheapest forms of electricity generation, meaning there is not a tradeoff between clean energy and affordable energy. That is overall true, which is why CUB tends to push Michigan utilities toward a greater use of renewables.

But in practice, accessing clean and affordable power is much more complicated than just building more wind and solar. Renewable energy needs to be connected with transmission lines from where it is generated to where people use electricity. In particular, the renewable energy that has the best output relative to costs, like wind in the Great Plains, tends to be concentrated in rural areas far from population centers.

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CUB Calls for Smarter Spending on the Grid in DTE Electric Rate Case

Source: JK Nair

Summer is here, and so is the season of mass power outages. Widespread, prolonged blackouts have struck American Electric Power customers in our neighbor to the south, and outages affecting thousands of customers recently occurred in Michigan. Of course, when you are dealing with thousands of miles of power lines, some outages are inevitable, especially in stormy weather.

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Settlement to Lead to More Resource Diversity for UP Utility Upper Michigan Energy Resources

Menominee, Mich., located in UMERC’s service territory. Source: Bobak Ha’Eri. License: CC BY-SA 3.0

CUB, the Michigan Attorney General and other parties have reached a settlement with the Upper Peninsula utility Upper Michigan Energy Resources Corp. (UMERC) that the Michigan Public Service Commission (MPSC) expects will help confront the greater UP’s problem of overreliance on natural gas (U-21081).

The settlement, approved by the MPSC at its May 12 meeting, allows UMERC to move ahead with its Integrated Resource Plan (IRP), the MPSC-required filing in which the utility shows what resources it will use to serve its customers over 5-year, 10-year, 15-year and 20-year time horizons. The IRP represents “a win for customers across the UP” because it “provides valuable resource diversity” for the region, MPSC Chair Dan Scripps said at the Commission’s meeting.

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MPSC Acts on AG and CUB of Michigan Request for More Transparency With Federal Funds and Utilities

The MPSC commissioners at their meeting on May 12.

On May 12, the Michigan Public Service Commission (MPSC) issued an order in which it agreed to a proposal suggested by Michigan Attorney General Dana Nessel and the Citizens Utility Board of Michigan meant to ensure that the state’s regulated utilities take full advantage of new federal funding opportunities for a variety of renewable energy, smart grid and other energy-related projects.

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Legislation Introduced to Address Poor Electric Reliability in Michigan

Source. License.

Several weeks ago the Michigan Public Service Commission (MPSC) issued a disappointing order that, for the most part, ignored the reforms proposed by the Citizens Utility Board (CUB) of Michigan and other groups and did not hold the state’s utilities accountable for increasingly frequent power outages. Read our blog post here and our initial statement for the full background on that decision.

We ended that blog post by saying: “CUB is not done fighting for a fairer approach to consumers who lose power. Stay tuned.”

We can now announce the next step in this fight: on April 13, state Reps. Abraham Aiyash (D-Hamtramck) and Yousef Rabhi (D-Ann Arbor) introduced a package of legislation that would enshrine into law consumer protections that help all Michigan residents cope with the dangers, costs and inconveniences that come with frequent power outages.

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Indiana Michigan Power Customers: Hearing to Examine Future of Your Power

Today at 6-8 pm, the Michigan Public Service Commission (MPSC) is holding a virtual public forum on Indiana Michigan Power Co.’s integrated resource plan (IRP), giving customers of the utility the chance to voice their thoughts on Indiana Michigan Power’s plan that outlines from where it will obtain power over the next 20 years.

Go here for information on how to join the forum online or via phone.

Case U-21189

The Citizens Utility Board of Michigan is intervening in this case to ensure that Indiana Michigan Power customers are served by the most economic mix of power possible to keep bills affordable.

 

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Michigan PSC Order on Reliability Standards Lets Down Michigan Ratepayers

“DTE and Consumers Energy, which together provide power to a majority of Michigan residents, appear to be aiming for just marginal improvements in grid reliability. Much more is needed for Michigan residents to be safe and secure in their homes with stable access to electricity, a basic necessity,” CUB Executive Director Amy Bandyk wrote in a Detroit News op-ed at the end of last year.

Unfortunately, on March 17, the Michigan Public Service Commission (MPSC) failed to rise to the level of what is needed to alleviate the poor service Michiganders have been receiving from their utilities at high price. After nearly two years of engagement with CUB, Attorney General Dana Nessel and other stakeholder groups (as we have chronicled on this blog, see here, here and here, for example), the MPSC made only the most modest of changes to the service quality and reliability standards. Those standards have not been substantively changed since 2004, so this may be a sad missed opportunity to give teeth to our regulations.

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CUB and AG Nessel Call for More Transparency on Utility Political Activities

Source: Google Maps

When you pay your utility bills, you pay for the energy that goes into your home and the infrastructure that carries it there. But many people do not know that your bill payments also may help fund political stances supported by your utility, either directly or indirectly through trade associations.

CUB of Michigan has teamed up with Michigan Attorney General Dana Nessel to shed light on this complicated but important topic by submitting comments in response to a notice of inquiry issued by the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC).

“Ratepayers across the country may be bearing hundreds of millions of dollars in higher rates in any given year to pay for utilities to support causes and influence policy issues that are not related to the provision of utility service and, in many cases, may be contrary to ratepayers’ interests,” our comments said.

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